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Artists confront 'Intersectionality' at MOCA

Artists tackle homophobia, sexism and religion in "Intersectionality" at @mocanomi museum in North Miami.

Donor-recognition walls emblazoned with the names of patrons are familiar to every art museum. But in Rosa Naday Garmendia's new installation "Rituals of Commemoration," built to resemble one such donor wall, the printed names include Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, listed on red and brown brick pavestones above the year they died.

Calling the brick wall a "tool for mourning" in an artist statement on her website, Garmendia says the installation questions the "role of the police, acts of racism, poverty" in a country that fails "to see the value of African-American life."

Garmendia's wall and other artworks about racism, homophobia, class, sexism and religion appear in the new group exhibit "Intersectionality," opening Thursday, June 16, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. The word is sociology jargon in academic circles for how geography, sexuality, race and age shape human beings and create systems of "privilege and oppression," says Alan Waufle, MOCA's assistant director.

"If you go back to the Orlando shootings, you have a clear example of how societies intersect," Wauflesays of last weekend's mass shooting at a gay nightclub. "You have religion, political context and sexuality, and all those variables coincided at the club that night."

The 70 paintings, sculptures and photographs on display by 50 South Florida artists directly and indirectly tackle current events. Social justice and LGBT politics have topped headlines in recent years as examples of modern oppression, a big consequence of intersectionality, show curator Richard Haden says.

In her seven-photograph series "Trans Cuba," part-time South Florida artist Mariette Pathy Allen presents candids of transgender men and women in Havana: sitting on leather couches, strolling the neighborhood. In one image, a barber is busy clipping a trans man's high-top fade indoors, posters of Fidel Castro on the wall — a symbol of intolerant socialism — clashing with a photo of Jesus stuck to the barbershop mirror.

Afro-Cuban artist Juana Valdes tackles struggles of migration in "Trade Wind Endeavors," her installation of two cloth ship sails, which features screen-printed, overlapping text from Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness." The piece calls to mind old-world colonialism and immigration, which is echoed in Anja Marais' installation "The Crossing," where nine pairs of adult and children's dress shoes filled with dirt sit next to an out-of-focus photograph of a muddy cornfield.

Although Marais emigrated from South Africa during apartheid, the shoes evoke the current Syrian refugee crisis, Haden says.

"When migrants are being forced out of their country to escape oppression, they have to pack your belongings hastily. You leave with the shoes on your feet," Haden says. "It's a dehumanizing process, these journeys from one world to another."

"Intersectionality" will open Thursday, June 16, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, 770 NE 125th St. A reception will take place 7-9 p.m. Thursday, June 23. The show will close Aug. 14. Admission costs $3-$5. Call 305-893-6211or go to MocaNomi.org.

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